Unfortunately, yes, in most cases you are legally responsible if you give someone permission to drive your vehicle and they then cause a crash. This is because your insurance is tied specifically to your car first and to you second.
Because the insurance is tied to the vehicle, people who are not listed on the policy can still be covered by your insurance as long as you gave permission for them to use the car. These are called “permissive drivers.” Insurance companies usually define a permissive driver as someone who drives the vehicle less than 12 times per year. Anyone who is borrowing your car more frequently than that should be added to your policy.
However, it’s important to remember that fault still applies in these situations. If your friend was in an accident while driving your car, but the driver of the other vehicle was at fault, then that person’s insurance is responsible for paying for damages, and your friend can file a claim with that person’s insurance like they would if they were driving their own car.
What If the Person Driving Your Vehicle Has Their Own Insurance?
If the person borrowing your car has their own car insurance, you may believe that their insurance and not yours should cover any damages they cause. Unfortunately, that’s not how it typically plays out. As we discussed early, insurance policies are tied to vehicles, so because they caused the crash in your vehicle, your insurance policy is liable.
However, the driver’s insurance policy could act as backup or supplementary insurance. While your insurance is required to pay first, if the costs exceed your policy limit, their insurance could be held liable for paying the remainder.
What If They Don’t Have Insurance?
If your friend or family member does not have their own insurance and your insurance policy limits are not enough to pay for all damages, then you could be held personally liable for the remainder.
What If My Insurance Refuses to Cover Them?
In most cases, your insurance will cover any drivers you’ve given permission to use your vehicle, even if they aren’t listed on your policy, unless the policy language specifically states that drivers who are not listed on the policy aren’t covered.
However, your insurance will not cover any driver who’s been specifically excluded by name from your policy (someone you’ve requested not be included on your policy to reduce your rates, such as a high-risk family member), even if you’ve given permission for them to borrow your car.
Your auto insurance can also refuse to cover a driver you’ve given permission to use your car if they turned out to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash, or if they don’t have a valid driver’s license.
In those cases, your friend or family member will be treated as an uninsured driver. But that doesn’t mean you are off the hook and all fault lies on them. Instead, you could BOTH be held liable for paying any damages entirely out-of-pocket.
If you’re concerned a crash involving your vehicle may not be covered by your insurance and you may be held personally liable, we recommend speaking to a lawyer.
What If They Borrowed My Car Without Permission?
If you can prove that the person who was driving your car did not have permission to take it, then you will not be held liable for the damages they caused.
In that case, either their own insurance will cover the damages, or if they are uninsured, they will be personally liable for the other driver’s vehicle damage and medical expenses out-of-pocket. However, you will likely have to pay for your own vehicle repairs using your personal collision insurance.
Keep in mind that it can be very difficult to prove that the person driving your car did not have permission to take it, especially if there is reasonable cause to believe they might have had permission or were given permission in the past.
If the car was stolen, however, and the person who stole the vehicle causes a crash, then you cannot be held liable for any damages they cause to someone else. But again, you will likely need to use your own insurance to repair your car.
After a Car Crash, Call Gary Bruce
At the Law Offices of Gary Bruce, we’ve been helping victims of car crashes fight back against uncooperative insurance companies for decades. If you were in a crash, especially a crash that left you injured, and you have questions about what comes next or how to get compensation, don’t hesitate to call our firm, day or night. We provide free, no obligation consultations, and if you decide to hire us after speaking to a lawyer, you don’t pay any fee unless we win.